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Professional education can be a confidence builder

Richard L. Botham, a partner at the Providence-based Yarlas, Kaplan, Santilli, & Moran, Ltd., is “as Rhode Island as they get,” spending his childhood in Warwick, where he, his wife and two children call home today.  

He did go “away” to college – at Bryant College in Smithfield, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Being a part of the community is important to him, which is why he embraces the opportunity to coach a youth hockey team in the winter and a Little League baseball team in the spring.  

Botham also appreciates the idea of a professional education, which he sees as critical for a CPA to provide the best and most accurate services to his or her clients. He has always loved learning and believes that pursuing educational opportunities as a professional is another way to build confidence – the kind of confidence a client wants to see in their CPA.

WHAT COUNTS: Why accounting? Is there something about the exactitude of numbers? What drew you to the field?

Botham: Growing up, I always loved math and problem solving.  My parents always told me if you’re good with math and numbers, you would be a great accountant.  It really resonated with me as I progressed through high school and continued to enjoy all of the math courses I took.  During college, I came to learn that numbers were the easy part of accounting.  There was much more theory and problem solving involved than I initially realized.  I learned that building relationships and helping people was critical to the profession which helped to drive my passion for a career in accounting.  

WC: Can you look back to a time when you think you were destined for accounting work? 

Botham: Back in high school, I did research on different professions I might want to pursue in college.  Many options were appealing to me such as engineering, law, etc.  In the end, I decided that studying accounting/business at Bryant College would provide me with the most diverse skill set to be successful within any economic condition. The sense of security and ability in using an accounting degree to build a career made the decision easy.   

WC: What do you like best about your role at YKSM?

Botham: Since I joined YKSM in September of 2014, my role within the firm continues to evolve in many areas.  Auditing has been a focal point throughout my career (with a specialty in employee benefit plans), so that continues to be a main focus of mine.  In addition, my role as a shareholder requires me to maintain a balance between working “in” the firm and “on” the firm which I find extremely rewarding yet challenging.  One of the strengths of YKSM is that we have expertise in so many areas of practice which allows for a very diverse client base.  With all that being said, the best part of my role at YKSM is building relationships and doing my best to help those around me, both internally and externally.

WC: What is your mix of clients?

Botham: My client base is quite diverse both from a size and service perspective.  As a firm, we have clients receiving tax and audit services in various industries such as manufacturing, distribution, hospitality, construction, employee benefit plans, property management, non-profit, professional services, technology industries, etc. We also have some specializations in business valuations, litigation support and peer reviews as well. Given our diversity as a practice, I have a little mix of everything in both the audit and tax services.  Additionally, employee benefit plan audits continue to be an area of specialization for me.  

WC: What kinds of advice do you offer manufacturers in Rhode Island these days? We hear so much about the decline in that industry over the past few decades, yet manufacturing is seen as vitally important to the overall health of our economy? 

Botham: I agree that successful manufacturers and businesses in general are critical to the current health of our economy in addition to its future growth.  To start, I think business owners/leaders need to be proactive in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of their organization.   Assessment is important but by itself isn’t enough.  Taking that knowledge and using it to become more profitable and grow is really the key.  For instance, investing resources into expanding sales and growth of profitable products/services and cutting out the unprofitable ones seems logical, right?  The issue is that it’s very common to get “caught up” in the daily grind of running a business and lose sight of the big picture because too many things are being juggled on a daily basis.  If leadership of the organization continues to be proactive, this will help to ensure a high quality, trustworthy team of people who support the company’s mission and values. 

WC: What are your clients who have found success even in a down economy, doing right?

Botham: Given the diversity of my client base, I would say there are many underlying reasons for success that I have seen.  Sometimes it’s just about having the right product or service and other times its required taking calculated risks exploring new directions that worked out.  One consistent theme I have seen with well run, successful clients is a strong, trustworthy leadership team that understands the importance of relationships both with its employees and customers.   Usually the management team had enough foresight during the “fat and happy” times to properly prepare and set the business up for success during the leaner times.  

WC: What do you think of when you here the term "professional education?' The accounting profession is continuously requiring its professionals to continue their educational pursuits. Is this something you embrace? 

Botham: Absolutely.  Education is so important in our professional environment because governing bodies that oversee all the various practice areas change the rules on a regular basis throughout each year.  I have always loved learning because it builds confidence and enhances job (or career) satisfaction.     

WC: Why is it so important for professionals to continue to be educated? 

Botham: Well, I guess the obvious reason to stay updated is to maintain compliance with our professional standards as certified public accountants.  However, as advisers to individuals and businesses, our clients have an expectation that we will help them and provide the information needed to make important decisions regarding tax implications, business decisions, etc.  The education that we, as professionals, get annually is critical for allowing us to provide the best and most accurate service/advice possible.  I also think it builds confidence in each person and creates a more rewarding work environment which benefits everyone.    

WC: You volunteer for both Little League and Youth Hockey? Is that a nice release from the office?  Can the games be stressful, too?

Botham: Yes, it is a great place to be if I am not in the office.  When I am out there volunteering it’s all about the kids and that is pure enjoyment.  It’s just so rewarding to watch a child get a huge smile on their face because they learned something new or accomplished something they previously couldn’t do. Watching their development over just one season is amazing so getting to see it during the winter for hockey and the summer for baseball continues to be so much fun.   

WC: Why is it important for you to give back to your community, especially through youth sports?

Botham: There are so many ways to give back and help within the community and I applaud all those doing so.  For me, I always knew that if I was going to volunteer my time, it would involve something I was really passionate about. That made my decisions to volunteer for the RISCPA Social and Philanthropic Committee and for youth sports very easy for me.  It’s crazy, because what I have learned throughout my time volunteering is that those moments of giving back, whether it’s planning a golf tournament or coaching at the rink or on the field, are priceless.  The time I have given is such a small price for the ultimate reward the experience provides.     

WC: You get two weeks off. Where do you go? 

Botham: I am pretty simple so this won’t be too exciting.  If I am bringing my family – my wife and two children – we are going to Florida to relax on the beach and maybe mix in a trip to Disney while down there since the kids have never been.  If I could get away with just my wife I would love to tour Italy, drink lots of wine and see all it has to offer.